ROCK HILL – Patricia Royer FitzGerald, 80, passed away peacefully on December 21st, at Westminster Health and Rehabilitation Center after a five-year battle with Alzheimer’s. Her loving family was at her side. Pat was born in San Francisco, California, in 1937, to John and Rita Royer and grew up across the Bay in Albany. She was active in theatre and the Alpha Xi Delta sorority at the University of California Berkeley, where she graduated with a Journalism degree in 1959.
After college, Pat ventured to Honolulu, HI, where she worked in advertising and public relations. On an eventful blind date there, she met her future husband, Naval Officer Edmund J. FitzGerald.
In 1970, Pat and Ed moved to Buffalo, N.Y., where Pat brought her California sensibilities to the Great Lakes region. As a charter member of Housewives to End Pollution (HEP), she was an early activist for environmental issues. Pat and HEP worked to pass a statewide ban on phosphate laundry detergents which were polluting the waters of Lake Erie at the time, and introduced recycled paper to all printing and correspondence for N.Y. State government offices. They also passed the Bottle Bill, which introduced a deposit return for beverage containers – there are virtually no cans or bottles littering the roads and landscape of New York today as a result of this legislation.
In Buffalo, she also took up tennis, a sport that combined her two great loves: spirited conversation and exercise.
When the family moved South in 1978, settling in Rock Hill, Pat noticed a lack of news coverage in the York County arts scene. She convinced The Rock Hill Herald to bring her on as a lifestyles writer, where she enthusiastically chronicled local arts and culture for over 15 years. She also wrote travel stories and a weekly column, “The Inside Track,” until retirement.
Living her beliefs by example was something important to her throughout her life. In 1970s Buffalo, Pat opened her home to exchange students, Vietnamese refugees and later in Rock Hill, to Winthrop MBA students. She felt that welcoming foreigners into her home – who always became cherished family members – provided her children and grandchildren a broader cultural window to the world.
Always an open and sharing person, Pat’s energy and love of life was ever-present, whether it be in her colorful fashion-sense, tireless support of the arts or her special talent for throwing parties.
Very proud of her exotic French Polynesian heritage, during retirement Pat traveled to Tahiti and Europe to unearth the stories of ancestors that had immigrated to the Polynesian Islands generations earlier. Her years of research culminated in the 2014 publication of “Tahitian Pearl,” a memoir of her mother Rita and her Polynesian roots.
Pat was an active member of Saint Anne Catholic Church for over 39 years. She served as editor of the parish newsletter, “The Gospel Truth,” wrote and performed in the annual talent show fundraiser, and was a vibrant lector there for over two decades. She was an active member of The Sierra Club, Politia Club, the Junior Keystone Book Club, and Shiland Hills Racquet and Swim Club. Passionate for the needs of the less fortunate, she was a dedicated volunteer of Pilgrims’ Inn women’s shelter of Rock Hill, serving on the Board for over 10 years, including organizing the annual Saint Patrick’s Day fundraising event.
Married for 55 years, Pat is survived by her husband Edmund and children, Gregory V. FitzGerald (Della) of Rock Hill, Bridgit F. Napleton (Philip) of London, UK, and Nathan R. FitzGerald (Rebecca) of La Crescenta, CA. She leaves behind nine grandchildren, Rachel Castejón (Alfonso) of Charleston, SC, Madeline FitzGerald of Lexington, SC, Emma FitzGerald of Rock Hill, Samuel, Ryan and Connor Napleton of London, UK, and Silas, Colin and Rowan FitzGerald of La Crescenta, CA. She is also survived by sister, Pamela Weinstein (Bill) of Redding, CA, and other loving family members.
A funeral liturgy and memorial service will be held on December 30th, 10:00 am at Saint Anne Catholic Church, 1694 Bird Street in Rock Hill. Father Fabio Refosco, CO will preside. A luncheon reception to greet the family and celebrate her life will immediately follow at the church Family Life Center. Memorials may be made to Westminster Endowment, 1330 India Hook Rd., Rock Hill, SC 29732, Hospice Care of South Carolina, 1639 Ebenezer Rd. Rock Hill, SC, or charities of choice.
The family wishes to thank Dr. Charles Edwards and the nurses and staff at the Charlotte Memory Center, the nurses and staff at the Westminster Health and Rehabilitation Center, and the staff of Hospice Care of South Carolina. Without them we would not have been able to provide the care and understanding needed to deal with this complex and devastating disease.